Modified captions on Colin Powell’s grainy images.

According to Joseph Pine we all crave – and will buy – authenticity these days.

According to Errol Morris we are more inclined to find authenticity in grainy low resolution images.

ERROL MORRIS: But, as we become more and more sophisticated about images — about how images are processed — haven’t we become more sophisticated about detecting fraud? Photoshop manipulations are relatively easy to detect. They fool the eye, but they don’t necessarily fool the expert.

HANY FARID: The answer is: yes and no. It depends on the image source. So, if we have the raw files[8], if we have the original footage from someone’s digital camera, you can’t fool us anymore. We have enough technology today where, given the camera, the original images that came off the camera, we can tell if you’ve manipulated them. If, however, you are talking about an image that has been cropped and reduced and compressed and posted on the web, then we might be able to do it, but there’s no guarantee. The task is decidedly harder because a lot of information has been thrown away. You’ve compressed the image; you’ve resized it. This is why all the Loch Ness monster and ghost images are always so tiny and grainy, because then you can’t see the signs of tampering. With low-res images it’s much harder to detect a fake. Definitely, when we have a high-res original image, we are much better at it.

[People often trust low-res images because they look more real. But of course they are not more real, just easier to fake. We look at picture of Nessie (the Loch Ness Monster). It’s grainy, fuzzy. It’s hard to make anything out. You never see a 10-megapixel photograph of Big Foot or the Abominable Snowman or the Loch Ness Monster. One explanation is: these monsters don’t exist. But if they did exist — so the thinking goes — they are probably unwilling to sit still for portraiture. The grainy images are proof of how elusive Nessie can be. This belief extends to documentary filmmaking, as well. If it’s badly shot, it’s more authentic. – E.M.]


Grainy image of Caribou. From the Film Board of Canada, who gave Boards of Canada a name.


Grainy image of moon surface


Grainy image of Pentagon


Grainy image of man in a flamboyant hirsute